The best of the Toughest vivo PKL season

The seventh season of VIVO Pro Kabaddi League has entered its twilight stages, with the grand final between Dabang Delhi and Bengal Warriors looming. Interestingly, VIVO PKL will have a new winner whatever be the result, with both teams playing their first final of India’s top Kabaddi tournament.

The final itself is testimony to the competitive nature of season seven that saw favourites stumble while young stars scripted new records. Three-time champions Patna Pirates failed to reach the playoff stages despite another stellar season for Pardeep Narwal while pre-season favourites Tamil Thalaivas’ poor run reminded everyone how Kabaddi is a team sport and not just about a group of talented individuals.

A season of highs
‘High-flyer’ Pawan Sehrawat was once again the standout raider of the season and brought Bengaluru Bulls within touching distance of a place in the finals. The defending champions were heavily reliant on Pawan’s raiding skills and he scored 346 points in 24 match with 18 Super 10s and a staggering strike rate of 75%. While Naveen Kumar didn’t exactly match Pawan Sehrawat’s points, his 20 consecutive Super 10s was the key in Dabang Delhi’s road to the finals. The 20-year-old, a produce of the Future Kabaddi Heroes (FKH) programme, scored 283 points in 22 matches, and will end the season behind only Pawan Sehrawat and Pardeep Narwal (302) in overall points.

Ever since the dawn of the VIVO PKL, Kabaddi as a sport has evolved, and season seven was once again proof to the fast changing nature, with the defenders having a bigger say in results. While UP Yoddha’s Nitesh Kumar couldn’t match his 100-point tally from last season, you could see a distinct changes in approaches as the corners starting tackling more eagerly. In fact, the success of teams like U Mumba, UP Yoddha and Bengal Warriors was down to effective corners. U Mumba’s ‘Sultan’ Fazel Atrachali topped the chart with 82 tackle points. UP’s duo of Sumit and Nitesh Kumar (both products of the FKH) scored 77 and 75 respectively while Sandeep Dhull clinched 73 despite playing for a Jaipur Pink Panthers side that failed to qualify for the playoffs.

A final on merit
The League stage’s top two teams – Dabang Delhi and Bengal Warriors – will fight it out for the coveted trophy in Ahmedabad on Saturday. Both teams have shown remarkably consistency throughout the season and deserve a shot at the title for their all-round performances. The Bengal corner combination of Baldev Singh and Rinku Narwal will be keen to stop Naveen ‘Express’ Kumar from reaching another Super 10 while at the other end the experienced duo of Ravinder Pahal and Joginder Narwal will look to thwart the Bengal raiders. The Warriors haven’t been beaten by Delhi this season but it remains to be seen if their talisman Maninder Singh will be fit enough to start against Dabang.

VIVO PKL will get a new champion on Saturday. But the season has already produced new champions with the FKH products showing what a platform like the VIVO Pro Kabaddi League can do for young sportspersons in the country.